Message Boards Message Boards

Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

Guidance needed (Goenka Vipassana meditator)

Hello everyone emoticon

My story is following - I started to meditate in 2014 at a 10-day Goenka retreat. Actually I took 2 such courses that year.
After I meditated at home occasionally. Then I had a rather depressive time, but its debatable if this was due to meditation. Again in 2017 I took a 10-day course. After I was able to overcome some problems and life got better. Still I meditated infrequently at home. At that point I had no idea about any maps, nannas, jhannas. Only what I heard at the course from Goenka lectures. If I recall the courses now I got many times the flow of very fast (many times a second) pulsing/vibrations throughout the body, which i assume was the A&P. Though because Goenka warns about those subtle sensations I don't recall giving much importance to them and those experiences weren't so pleasant as people describe it.  At the begin of 2019  I took a 10-day course and right after I served on a 10-day course (~4h meditation daily). Then a change came. I started to meditate 2h daily. Then during meditation at home I went through some serious fears (related to my life) and a prime fear, which I overcome.

In August 2019 I took again a 10 day course + 10 day serving. Only before that course I started to check for more information about maps, stages in Buddhism etc.
On the sitting course I had an experience. It was on the 3rd day, I meditated Anapana (I was also aware of other things happening - sensations, thoughts and mental content). Suddenly everything went black. The mind got empty and "black" and extremely calm at the same time. There were no thoughts, nothing. Not a slightest mind movement or anything was needed to hold that state. This state lasted about 45-60 minutes, including a pause in meditation when I went for a walk. The question is what was that? On the following 10-day serving on day 9 I hit a bhanga nana (I did hit it before a few times) which I remember as "almost perfect" dissolution.

Right now I meditate 2h daily and I'm able to let go some impurities from my mind. My life mostly feels boring. I'm sure I don't stop to meditate. It has a big priority. I'm sure that I'm making a progress, thought still feels like a lot of work to do.

So the question - what do you think of my experiences? Do you have any advice? Does it make sense to try some other tradition, like Mahasi? What do you think about the "black" experience?

RE: Guidance needed (Goenka Vipassana meditator)
9/23/19 9:07 AM as a reply to Marek.
I'm sure that I'm making a progress, thought still feels like a lot of work to do.

So the question - what do you think of my experiences? Do you have any advice? Does it make sense to try some other tradition, like Mahasi? What do you think about the "black" experience?
It does sound like you are making progress. Why do you think you should change something in your practice?

If your life seems boring at the moment and you have high priority for practice, bring the practice into your everyday life. Try to be mindful as much as you can. Focus on the activity you are doing. Do one task at a time. Try to stop automated actions, such as scratching an itch or snacking before you sit down to eat. Notice how pleasant or unplesant sensations arise, stop/delay instinctive reactions to them. Pay full attention to your conversations with other people. Think it is wise to say what you are about to say (if it will not be misunderstood, will not deepen the conflict etc.).

Life might still continue to be boring, but at least the time will be spent meaningfully.

RE: Guidance needed (Goenka Vipassana meditator)
9/24/19 9:36 AM as a reply to pieva.
Why am I thinking about changing the technique? I read the Mahasi Sayadaw instructions  ( which I found useful. Especially the part with just noting things. I had (have) some tendency to be pulled by thoughts, which just should be noted. So trying Mahasi seems tempting, but I guess what is important is the awareness and equanimity, and this can be done as well by my current meditation technique.

The advice with being mindful at every day tasks, I find it good, yes I should try extend my awareness also outside meditation time. Thanks.

I ordered also the book I hope it will be useful.

RE: Guidance needed (Goenka Vipassana meditator)
9/24/19 2:17 PM as a reply to Marek.
Agree, there's no harm trying.

Sorry can't comment about the 'black' experience. Maybe someone else on the forum? 

RE: Guidance needed (Goenka Vipassana meditator)
9/24/19 3:42 PM as a reply to Marek.
Hey Marek,

Maybe you want to check out this thread on the Goenka technique:

As for the "blackness", it might be related to the calming of the breath during anapana. Less oxygen, stillness but no bliss or light, so it is not jhana per se... interesting experience though.  Maybe more experienced posters will have a different explanation.
Smiling Stone

RE: Guidance needed (Goenka Vipassana meditator)
9/25/19 10:20 AM as a reply to Marek.

When you say "black", did you experienced black coulor, or was it an absence of experience? And how long did it last?

Regarding Goenka vipassana in general, I would say this. The technicque we learn on the first retreat involves only one of the four frames of reference. I know Goenka students learn it later in a different type of retreat. But it's important for serious students with even just one retreat to incorporate the other frames of reference in their insight meditation so it can remove the delusion that is more directly associated with the other frames of reference. I would also say that there is a tendency with the Goenka technique to aquire a bad habit. In Goenka vipassana you "look" at the inner experience, but it's important not to lose the investigative attitude of the mind that understands reality. If you look without the intention to understand (one of) the three characteristics, you may be "looking" as a routine and without gaining insight.

These are not defects of Goenka vipassana per se, but it's something to keep in mind.

Edit: The impurities are not to be removed. They are to be understood. If you practice with the intention of removing impurites, instead of understanding them, there is a subtle form of aversion there that might become an obstacle. In order for delusion to be removed, you have to experience clearly that everything that arises passes away; that it is futile to engage in attachment and aversion to impermanent phenomena because these are unable to bring satisfaction; and that there isn't even an individual essencial "I", separate from causes and conditions, separate from the aggregates, that is hurt by impermanence, or is able to control it. 

About Mahasi vipassana, maybe you can try it as a complement to your practice, before changing techniques altogether.

Announcements Announcements